Charlotte News

October 24, 1975

By Ed Martin

Hornets Families Gather To Face Uncertain Future

An enormous orange harvest moon was coming up over the Four Seasons apartment where Darrel and Marsha Bunge live.

Inside, five football families that had grown close while the Charlotte Hornets lived were together again last night, four hours after officials announced the World Football League and the Hornets had died.

There were the wives and children and a big yellow door.

LINEBACKER Jere Brown found a plastic Groucho Marx nose and mustache and popped his head around the kitchen door.

Linebacker Tom Chandler was making good-natured threats about getting drunk-as-a-skunk since, at this point, there was really wasn't much else he could do.

Somebody was joking and safety Terry Hoeppner and his wife Jane about sucking in their cheeks, so they could look hungry.

Visitors were offered a beer. Like at a real party.

But for the families of Hornet players, yesterday's collapse of the World Football League was not cause for celebration, except maybe in the sense that people laugh to keep from crying.

Barbara Chandler, mother of Tom Chandler's four-month old son, already had the family's belongings packed yesterday.

It wasn't because she was expecting the league to fold.

"We were planning to move to a new apartment tomorrow," she said. The Chandlers had lived in Four Season's apartments since July.

THE ONE they were moving to, she said, was to have been more permanent.

"We are quite surprised. It was the end of a dream for us. My husband really enjoyed his work. He said had never played as well as he had this year. Now, we're just sort of in limbo. We don't know where to go from here. We've been with the league from the beginning."

For many of the families, yesterday's announcement first brought disbelief, then, Barbara Chandler's reaction – limbo.

A friend called Marsha Bunge and said she's heard on the radio the WFL had fallen.

"I told her it was just another rumor, because the guys hadn't come home from practice yet.

They both like Charlotte, she said, especially "the friendly people, and the beautiful area we live in Raintree."

But like with Marty Huff and family, last night was not a good time for planning.

I'M NOT going to worry about it tonight," Huff said.     

Jane Hoeppner, with daughters Amy, 7 and Allison, 4, moved to Charlotte in August.

They rented a house in east Charlotte and are fond of the neighborhood and Idlewild Elementary School where Amy attends.

"I don't know what we'll do. Terry doesn't know what the job situation is here. We just can't believe this has happened."

Broken leases will be a bother, said some of the Hornets wives. Finding jobs will put a strain on their husbands. And some will find family budgets strained.

"It cost us all we made last year just to move down here," said Barbara Chandler. "Now it'll cost us all we've made here to move somewhere else." She laughs, though. "I guess maybe we'll break even."

Randy and Missy Rhino had, they said, managed to save money. "We're not hurting," said Rhino. But again, he wondered about some of the other Hornet players.

"Lots of guys have commitments to houses and apartments. Some of the guys are going to have to find jobs. There are no more paychecks. The WFL no longer exists. There's nothing left."

SOME OF the wives are bitter. Some are still just befuddled over how it all happened so quickly, despite the rumors and hints of the WFL's hard times. 

"No, I'm not bitter," said Missy Rhino. "I don't believe Upton Bell knew about this until today. It took everybody by surprise. I thought they would drop just the two weak teams. But obviously they (the WFL) didn't release some of the facts to the players or anybody."

Barbara Chandler was less generous towards Charlotte.

"The folks of Charlotte were quite two-faced. We'd been told we were something Charlotte needed, wanted. The people were willing to support us in front of their TV sets, but not when it came to paying a few bucks for tickets. I'll never come back to Charlotte."

Maybe it was the hard times, the uncertainty of the WFL, that had made the players and their families closer that in other professional leagues.

 The same adversity that yesterday killed the league.

Missy Rhino, wife of strong safety Randy Rhino was thinking they would move back to Atlanta, where Rhino would finish his college.

They have been married 10 months, she said, and she had moved here September 1.

"I had just fallen in love with Charlotte. Now, I guess we'll be heading back to Atlanta. I don't know when. If nothing comes up here, maybe the end of the month."

FOR THE Rhinos, an earlier taste of the vagaries of pro football had left them somewhat hardened to yesterday's blow; Rhino had been dropped from the New Orleans Saints before joining the Hornets.

"This had happened once before. But of course I'm upset, because he's a good football player and he wants to play. It's a rough situation."

But it's rougher for some of the other families, said Rhino.

"It's really got to be bad for the family guys. Tom Sherman has three kids. Mart Huff has three."

Mrs. Ruth Ann Sherman, like many of the other wives, heard the first word on her car radio.

"We had lived here for a year. As far as the future, we had both been hoping to buy a house and stay here."

Many of the players' wives had, of course, shared from the sidelines their husband's triumphs on the football field. Missy Rhino remembered bursting with pride while listening to a radio account of her husband intercepting a pass and setting a WFL record running it back for a touchdown against the Shreveport Steamer.

And last night, at the Bunge apartment, somebody pulled out a scrapbook.

"We'll be gone from here in a week," Marsha Bunge predicted. Gone, back to Minnesota. In a sense, she said, it's a relief to have the uncertainty of their relationship with the troubled WFL over now.

"Now we know how to plan our lives," she said.

BUT SHE, Jane Hoeppner, Barbara Chandler and some of the other WFL wives were thinking last night about friends they would leave behind.

"We're here trying to cheer one another up," Mrs. Chandler had said of the party. "We've all made close, wonderful friends. This may be one of the last times we're able to get together."

The wives are pretty close," agreed Mrs. Hoeppner. "We would get together for the away games and there was camaraderie, a common bond."

The whole team was like that, Bunge allowed, propped against his apartment wall sipping a beer.